Shared Services in Scotland’s Higher Education Sector

An independent assessment of shared services in Scottish higher education (2013)

The independent analysis, conducted by Ernst and Young, found over 170 shared service collaborations in the Scottish HE sector. Shared services extended into every aspect of university activity with a strong presence in academic provision and the infrastructure that supports it including IT and property assets.

Ernst and Young credited universities as being one of the few sectors to take advantage of change to VAT legislation to undertake more collaborative working.

Based on the current trajectory of collaboration and sharing in Scottish HE, Ernst and Young concluded that it has become an “integral part of the sector’s DNA and will continue to develop with momentum and drive”.

The report recommended two opportunities for the HE sector in terms of building on shared services:

  1. Building on existing ventures. Exploring the implications for increasing the scope of existing and successful collaborative ventures.
  2. Work to mitigate historic barriers. Approaches that work to help organisations identify if their business needs could be met collaboratively.

The report cautions against a top-down approach or a dogmatic, blanket-approach to shared services models. The sector should move ahead with a pragmatic approach, securing collective buy-in and looking to push boundaries, including revisiting what has previously been considered as “out of scope”.

Praise for the sector's proactive role in shared services

“Higher education across the UK has a long tradition of collaboration and developing innovative solutions to address the needs of multiple institutions”

Ernst and Young, 2013.

Key Points:

  • 170 examples of shared service collaborations in Scottish HE.
  • Ernst and Young found “significant development in the scale and breadth” of shared services in HE since 2007.
  • The analysis found collaborations in all aspects of HE activity from procurement, knowledge transfer and commercialisation to student focused activity including widening access.


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